Va Judge Sentences Five Somali Pirates to Life

Last week, when writing about the new case filed in Virginia against a group of Somali pirates who are accused of killing two American couples after hijacking their boat, I quoted at length from pleadings in a 2010 Virginia case where the defendants, young Somali men convicted of pirating a ship in the Indian Ocean, were awaiting sentencing.

Five defendants, all in their young 20's, all facing life sentences. $27,000 per year for 40 years for 5 defendants equals - $5,400,000.00. And that's just the cost of housing them. It doesn't include the cost of prosecution or defense or their medical care while in prison.

Now we have a new Norfolk case with 14 young Somali defendants, captured in the Indian Ocean, and flown to the U.S. for criminal prosecution. With the jurisdictional and venue issues already decided against them in earlier cases, with no local interpreters and no local Somali population to sit on their jury, their fate will probably be the same. $27,000 per year for 40 years for 14 defendants equals $15,120,000. $20 million just to warehouse the defendants in two cases.

Monday, the five were sentenced to life in prison. These sentences aren't going to stop piracy. They do, however, cost the U.S. a huge amount of money that could better be spent elsewhere.

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    What do you (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Lena on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 06:54:13 AM EST
    (or anyone, really) think would be an appropriate sentence for the crime of killing 4 people?

    I agree that life sentences are costly on taxpayers.

    You are right (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by nyjets on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 07:18:46 AM EST
    Life sentencing are costly. But for the crimes of piracy and murder, they are the only correct sentence.

    That's Not the Issue (none / 0) (#20)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 11:15:37 AM EST
    Life sentences, fine, but why are we burdened with the cost, is their no maritime world court (there is, ICJ), are we to try every high crime on the seas, and where does it end ?

    Who made the US the world police, from Africa to the Middle East to S America, to Antarctica, US law is apparently world law, and we seem to believe in a time of fiscal chaos, we should import, prosecute, and house the world's criminals. And then wonder why we need body scans to ensure the people who are sick of our non-sense, don't kill us.

    But we can't find the cash to heat the poor, and mistake me if I a wrong, but these imported criminals will receive far better health care than your average American, for free.

    Great fricken policy, maybe we can start importing shoplifters from Bulgaria, car thieves from Moscow, that would be Private Prison Inc's wet dream.


    If the victims are Americans (none / 0) (#22)
    by nyjets on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 11:25:24 AM EST
    When the victims are American, we have every right to prosecute. Also, pirates are a threat to everybody, including Americans.

    Tired of People Who Don't Know... (none / 0) (#28)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 12:43:43 PM EST
    ... what the term 'right' means.  
    And by 'we' do you mean people totally unaffected in any sense by pirates ?

    There are a lot of threats out there, but you seem to be suggesting it is the duty of the United States to ensure every square inch of the Earth is safe for Americans ?  Is this true of other nations whose people die on our soil ?  Or just Americans ?

    Plenty of locations right here w/i our borders far more dangerous than the Gulf of Aden, yet no Feds, no one cares, but we should spend tens of millions on these super dangerous guys, why ?  Do our ghettos have kinder, more gentle criminals.  If I am murdered, there is a zero chance it will be from a Somali pirate, from a thief in Houston, low, but not zero.  I would much rather they chanced our own criminals than ones half way around the world.

    These American's hadn't been on American soil in 4+ years, they opted out of their group to sail through extremely dangerous waters, and we should spend cash bringing their murders to justice, and house them, because ___ .

    Fill in the blank, there is nothing we could do that an International court can't do, except deny them their actual rights as defined by the Constitution, but beyond that, life in prison is life in prison, well except for the 3 squares and health care.


    what international court? (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by CST on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 12:50:39 PM EST
    There is the international criminal court - which the U.S. is no longer really a part of.

    Do you mean some other foreign country?  Why would another foreign country prosecute someone who killed 2 Americans?

    I don't see anyone suggesting this is a reasonable response to deal with piracy.  But if you catch someone who has committed murder, you don't just let them go.  It's not like a ton of time was spent investigating this case.  They pretty much caught them red-handed.


    yes it is (none / 0) (#31)
    by nyjets on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 01:15:35 PM EST
    It is the job of the goverment to protect its citizens. And that includes Americans in other parts of the world.
    The pirates are a threat to the country and to American citizens. That fact that they are not a direct threat to you or me is irrelevant.

    So They Will Protect Me.. (none / 0) (#33)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 01:29:58 PM EST
    ... if I decide to locate the head honcho of a Cartel ?  Please, it is not our duty to protect every American everywhere.  How about the American's right here, getting the same treatment every day (shot by thugs), you prefer we use the money in the Gulf of Aden than NYC ?

    The 4 Americans should not have been there, period.  Just like I shouldn't be in Tehran or the Gaza Strip, or even the south east side of Houston.  I can go there, but I shouldn't expect the military to rescue me when things go bad, and they will.

    You never answered my question, do all countries have this 'right' ?  Syria, Russia, Germany, Mexico, Burma, all free to snatch Americans anywhere if they are accused of harming their citizens ?


    You are wrong (none / 0) (#35)
    by nyjets on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 02:05:42 PM EST
    I am sorry, but the Americans were not hurting anyone. They had everyright to be there. They were minding their own business and it was the pirates who were in the wrong.
    IMO, it is the duty of the American government to protect American citizens. You obivously disagree therefore we are going in circles.

    And yes, other countries have the right to protect there own citizens. They however do not have to rely on 'snatch squads' to obtain American citizens. They can simply file a motion to extradite said citizen.
    I should also add, in the case of pirates, Somalia does not have the infrastructure for extradition. Furthermore, the pirates were caught red handed.


    Oh and (none / 0) (#43)
    by jbindc on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 05:56:03 PM EST
    In 2008, the UN passed a resolution allowing member countries to enter Somalian water to fight piracy.

    As Antony (none / 0) (#45)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 07:47:00 PM EST
    is reputed to have said when asked what he was doing in Egypt.

    "I come to enforce the law and I have 10 Legions to make it legal."


    All you need is firepower. (none / 0) (#46)
    by Harry Saxon on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 08:30:43 PM EST
    Um (none / 0) (#42)
    by jbindc on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 05:51:28 PM EST
    The Constitution also says we have a right to pursue pirates.

    Article III, Sec. 2, Clause 1 says:

    The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;--to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;--to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;--to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;--to controversies between two or more states;--between a state and citizens of another state;--between citizens of different states;--between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

    Not sure what your argument has to do with crime in Houston, or Wall Street, or whatever.  Americans were murdered in a place where we have jurisdiction - should we just ignore that?  Maybe these guys just need s fluffy pillow and cozy blanket and when they wake up, everything will be all right with the world again.



    "Say goodnight to the bad guys... (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 08:53:44 AM EST
    ya think that makes us good?"

    Absolutely right these life sentences for young desperate men will do nothing to deter piracy, and neither will the summary executions Abdul and PPJ are all on about...in case nobody has noticed life is cheap in Somalia...I don't think these cats fear death or incarceration, so it will not deter.  

    What will deter is some opportunities outside of the piracy racket.  25k a year to imprison x 4 lives x 50 years is 5 million right there...long term we'd be better off building free universities in Somalia than caging every pirate caught, with the bonus of a lesser soul stain.

    You're right-on, brother (none / 0) (#16)
    by NYShooter on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 09:59:13 AM EST
    unfortunately, after what we're witnissing as our new policies, foreign and domestic, your hopes remain daydreams.

    Wall Street, and their willing hostages, our Government, have another gameplan for America, and the world. Compassionate planning and intelligent policies are just not present in our DNA at this moment of our history.


    Yip yeah... (none / 0) (#19)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 10:11:51 AM EST
    daydreaming...as always:)  But I'm not the only one...

    Sh*t the pirates on Wall make the Somali crew look like amateurs...still using rpg's instead of computers...pfft, rank farkin' amateurs.


    Amateurs or not (none / 0) (#23)
    by nyjets on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 11:26:49 AM EST
    Does not matter if they are amateurs. Pirates in Somalia are just as dangrous as some of the pirates in wall street.

    and yet (none / 0) (#24)
    by CST on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 12:10:17 PM EST
    the pirates in somalia are the only ones i see getting life in prison.

    fair point (none / 0) (#25)
    by nyjets on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 12:25:16 PM EST
    However, instread of letting pirates in Somaalia get off with a slap on the wrists, we should be taking steps to punish some of the pirates in Wall Street.

    i don't really disagree with that (none / 0) (#26)
    by CST on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 12:31:40 PM EST
    other than to say I think we need a more realistic long-term plan to deal with this.  Because I don't think locking them up for life (or for that matter killing them) one by one is going to do anything to prevent this from happening again.

    That I would agree with (none / 0) (#27)
    by nyjets on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 12:38:16 PM EST
    If there was someway to rebuild Somalia I would be all for that. Unfortually, I do not know what the US can do that would not be preceived as meddling.

    I Know, I Know (Raising my Hand) (none / 0) (#29)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 12:50:14 PM EST
    I know what we can do...
    We can stay the F away from Somalia.

    If Maersk want to do business in dangerous locals, Maersk can foot the bill.  If some clowns want to ditch their group and sail through pirated waters, we can say that was really stoooopid and let the International Courts sort it out.

    I'm not saying these pirates don't deserve life, I am down with that, they killed people, what I am saying is I am tired of footing the tens of millions of dollars because some idiots wanted to take a short cut.


    The historical record. (none / 0) (#3)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 07:32:07 AM EST

    The 14 should have been tried the following morning on the fantail of the Navy ship that captured them.  On the following afternoon, hanged by the neck until dead and then fed to the fishes.  This by historical record is the only solution that works.

    Free room and board for life is not a fitting consequence for piracy and murder.


    That makes a lot of sense (none / 0) (#4)
    by Harry Saxon on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 08:15:20 AM EST
    until the next batch of pirates comes around and decided to kill any Americans that they capture in retaliation.

    Speculation (none / 0) (#5)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 08:32:29 AM EST

    And baseless speculation at that.  The three pirates whacked by the Seals a while back provoked no such retaliation.  Clearly, dead hostages will fetch very little ransom.

    For all we know, life sentences may put more lives at risk either by killing in retaliation, or by seeking hostages to trade for the imprisoned.



    Since neither you or I know (none / 0) (#6)
    by Harry Saxon on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 08:46:44 AM EST
    what was going through the mind of the 14 pirates  before they were captured, your dismissal is duly noted.

    As the American writer H. L. Mencken put it:

    Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem -- neat, plausible, and wrong.

    Sniper's bullets (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by getoffamycloud10 on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 10:07:53 AM EST
    went through at least three of them.

    Evidently, in gop circles, that constitutes Obama being soft on piracy in particular and crime in general.


    what was going through the mind (none / 0) (#9)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 09:01:05 AM EST

    ...what was going through the mind of the 14 pirates  before they were captured...

    What was going through their minds is quite irrelevant.  They were pirates caught literally red handed.  The tried and true solution of manila rope and yardarm is called for.  No need to dabble in trendy psychoanalysis that is neat, plausible, and wrong.



    Go live in Iran (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Dadler on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 09:29:56 AM EST
    Or China.  Or Saudi Arabia.  Freedom seems far too much of a burden for your terribly atrophied mind.  A totalitarian state would suit you well, and even better you could actually participate in summary executions.  Put your money where your rotting mouth is, step up, get a boat, and go kill these guys since you think it's so important.

    "Guy couldn't find his d*ck two hands a a map."

    -David Mamet

    So, your idea of freedom (none / 0) (#13)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 09:45:24 AM EST

    includes piracy and murder.  How odd.  A same day or next day trial is our constitutional requirement for a speedy trial at its best.

    Actually, (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by getoffamycloud10 on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 09:55:15 AM EST
    that falls more under the heading of summary judgement.

    What, no walkin' the plank?!! Planks strike you as an unreasonable expense?


    What you're suggesting (none / 0) (#14)
    by Harry Saxon on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 09:54:34 AM EST
    is a parody of American justice, not justice itself.

    Um, lots of pirates who were hanged (none / 0) (#10)
    by Harry Saxon on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 09:06:48 AM EST
    had undergone a trial before, so your approach is ahistoric and simple-minded:

    British Admiralty courts tried maritime cases, including those involving pirates. Most pirate trials were held at Old Bailey's. Before and after their trials, pirates in London were imprisoned in Marshalsea Prison, but a few, including Kidd, spent their final days in Newgate Prison. A mile downstream from the Tower of London at Wapping on the north bank of the Thames stood England's Execution Dock. Makeshift gallows on the shore identified the low-tide mark.  Here Kidd and other pirates were hanged, and afterwards a cycle of three tides flowed over their corpses before being removed. This stressed that the crimes they committed fell under the Admiralty's jurisdiction. Later, the bodies were either buried in unmarked graves or dissected. The more notorious, however, were tarred and hung in a custom-made gibbet to warn other seafarers of the fate that awaited them if they chose to turn pirate.

    When the Admiralty changed its laws to allow for the prosecution of pirates in any British port, hangings occurred at Port Royal, Charleston, Williamsburg, Newport, and Boston, among other places. Between 1716 and 1726, over four hundred pirates were hanged. In 1723, at the height of the war against piracy, eighty-two died. In the 1600s, some believed the only pirates executed were captains and other ringleaders of the crew. During the first twenty-eight years of the Eighteenth Century, however, that changed.

    Click or Pirate Me

    Pirates and Punishment (none / 0) (#7)
    by john liming on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 08:52:09 AM EST
    What prevents private craft upon the High Seas from arming themselves against piracy? I mean the pirates have rocket launchers and other advanced weaponry according to my understanding. How is it that a private craft cannot just open fire on a threat and defend? And I agree that we shouldn't ask American Taxpayers to keep these criminals in lifestyles they might consider luxurious. But what is the alternative to imprisonment other than mandatory death penalty? I have a Liberal Blog also. I am putting the link here in the hopes that I have read the policies correctly:


    I certainly... (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 09:18:11 AM EST
    have no problem with ships defending themselves, up to and including lethal force, if necessary.  The same applies to any of us walking down the street and being attacked, the inalienable right to defend yourself.

    I'm much more concerned with how our systems of justice rolls than how an individual captain on the seas rolls...he/she has gotta do what they gotta do in dangerous waters.  Systems, otoh, must be held to the highest of standards...and they're failing.


    Shipping company's call. (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by getoffamycloud10 on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 10:00:59 AM EST
    Actually, the decision to arm or not arm the crew is the shipping company's call. That was certainly the case in the Alabama/Maersk case.

    Of course, it's entirely possible that their insurance company made the decision for them.

    Perish the thought of government interfering in private enterprise.


    Come On Kdog (none / 0) (#32)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 01:20:19 PM EST
    The only reason this is an issue is because of dollars.  There is nothing in the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea we need/want.  It's the goods from the Persian Gulf we want, and we could have with zero human life cost, but that would mean spending the cash to go around Africa.

    The cost to us is probably the same, either cough-up cash for the military to protect the ships, or pay extra on the goods they ship.

    I bet if the military pulled out, the countries and companies who are effected by the commerce would solve it very quickly.  Either way, it shouldn't be our concern.  Tell Americans to stay away and let the market figure out what to do with the pirates.

    Maersk made a conscious decision to send their crew into a dangerous area to save dollars.  Had they put the crews safety first, there would have been no incident.


    you keep repeating this (none / 0) (#34)
    by CST on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 01:32:29 PM EST
    but it's just not true.

    You move and the pirates just follow you.  Link

    Consider this: "pirates have struck as far south as Tanzania and Madagascar, with the easternmost attack yet this month close to the coast of India"


    "representatives from the London insurance company market, last week added the Gulf of Oman and a wider stretch of the Indian Ocean to a list of areas it considered high risk for merchant vessels and prone to war, strikes, terrorism and related perils."

    You're right, there is absolutely nothing in the Gulf of Aden or Oman that we need/want.  You know, except for oil.  And if you want to go south around Africa, it's pretty hard to avoid Somalia, Tanzania, and Madagascar.


    OK, You are Right (none / 0) (#39)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 03:59:42 PM EST
    Problem solved, you are right, let's take billions out of our economy and inject it into the countries on the Indian Ocean, let's make sure those countries don't spend a dime protecting their waterways, to hell with our own people, oil companies profits are what's important here.  God forbid they or the countries selling it have to burden one cent of the cost.  America's will do it, then we'll let our own ghettos became 100 times more unsafe than any ocean, take health care from everyone, and call it victory.  With any luck at all, we can spend ourselves out of an sort of social net to ensure kallionaire's are free to make massive profits wherever they want.

    Isn't it amazing that the other 300+ countries on the planet seem to do just fine w/o spending trillions policing the entire planet.  Good thing Americans were killed, because had they been Finnish, the pirates would still be free, right ?  Because only American's are capable of justice.

    And when this fails, what's the plan ?  Make the poor even poorer, the rich richer, that will definitely solve the problem.  Four Americans were killed in Houston on Monday, where's the Navy, where's the swift justice, or is that a luxury only afforded to nitwits sailing though pirate alley ?

    And sorry, my heart isn't going out to the insurance companies and I certainly am not putting any stock in anything they have to say.  It's not like they would sound the alarm for no reason, well unless their profits are being tainted.

    We are not going to stop pirating, period.  Understand the risk.  Make more in a week than your whole family makes in a generation, at the risk of death or life in prison.  Versus, creeping death every day ensured with poverty beyond our comprehension.

    We can't beat those odds.  It's why terrorism and the drug trade flourish, and no army in the world will ever defeat those odds.

    If I thought for a minute we could actually irradiate piracy, then I would be in, but it's just not going to happen, like the other thousand things we convince ourselves force will curtail, and doesn't.


    nice rant (none / 0) (#40)
    by CST on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 04:32:10 PM EST
    that in no way relates to anything I've said.

    Also, your assumptions are wrong.  The U.S. is not alone in this.  There is a widespread international effort to combat piracy right now.  Funny that you bring up Finland.  Guess, what?  Their navy is over there too, along with just about everyone else.

    I'm sure if they knew who was killing people in Houston they'd be prosecuting them as well.  But life isn't that simple.


    Sh*t man.. (none / 0) (#41)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 05:38:17 PM EST
    forget about a longer route, I want someone to entertain my ten grand toll over the side of every passing ship...cheapest way to get the oil and save some lives.  Certainly better than this swinging d*ck contest between Somali pirates and American justice.

    You're right it's all about money and shippers dodging liability for anything and everything...I wouldn't sail through there without a hefty bribe or a heavy gun at the ready, I'll tell ya that much.  You'd have to be nuts to think the long arm of John Law is gonna be any help to ya...or your corporate shipper overlords, in the case of freighter crews.


    International Treaties (none / 0) (#21)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 11:25:22 AM EST
    We don't want a cargo ship from Indonesia pulling into the Port of Houston with more fire power than the Coast Guard.

    One, the obvious, some people want to kill other people in large quantities.

    Two, what if the munitions aren't up to spec and a 15 year old Taiwanese rocket launcher unexpectedly fires into a super tanker next to a fertilizer tanker while in port.  Before you can say 'really dumb idea', the entire port is a fireball.


    oh please! (none / 0) (#37)
    by cpinva on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 03:02:07 PM EST
    We don't want a cargo ship from Indonesia pulling into the Port of Houston with more fire power than the Coast Guard.

    what could possibly go wrong?


    What do you care about, Justice or (none / 0) (#36)
    by tigercourse on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 02:25:24 PM EST
    Money? If money is the issue, either never convict anyone of a crime or kill everyone of them. Both are the cheapest options.

    If, however, justice is the goal there must be a middle option. And that's imprisonment.

    actually, (none / 0) (#38)
    by cpinva on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 03:11:10 PM EST
    piracy on the high seas has historically (since antiquity) been a capital offense, and nearly always punishable by death.

    the theory behind this is the same theory that makes the ship's captain pretty much god: while on the open seas, there is no ready access to law enforcement, and very limited (until the advent of wireless) ability to communicate with those on land; you were pretty much on your own, at the mercy of neptune.

    up through the 19th century (shores of tripoli, anyone?), pirates were subject to capture and prosecution, by any country's navy, regardless of where they were at the time.

    oh, and as for armed private vessels, you'd best hold a "letter of marque", or you'll be assumed to be a pirate ship yourself.


    Jefferson would have ordered them hung (none / 0) (#44)
    by beefeater on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 07:24:04 PM EST
    or had them walk the plank.

    I'm with Tom.